Producing free research especially helps young consultants prove their worth, both to clients and to others within the firm. Christopher McKenna, a historian of consulting at Oxford University, says clients may balk at paying handsomely for a “young punk” of a consultant. A young punk who has written an impressive paper is a different matter. Spots for year-long stays at the consultancies’ in-house think-tanks such as the McKinsey Global Institute, BCG’s Strategy Institute and the IBM Institute for Business Value are fought over fiercely.
As of next year the course I direct (in London) will require students to write a thesis. One of our main challenges is to switch the mindset away from being a "student" and towards "young professional", so a thesis runs the risk of harking back to undergratuate research. For me the model needs to be consultancy reports.